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SEC Network Launching As More People Demand A La Carte Programming

sec-network-final-logo-smallThe new SEC Network is in for a fight.  Actually, it’s in for several fights.

As we’ve explained over the past several weeks, cable and satellite providers don’t like adding new channels.  That’s because they have to pay fees to new networks in order to carry (and re-sell) their programming.  Inevitably, the more they pay and the more channels they add, the higher your monthly bill rises.  The provider’s costs are passed along to its viewers.

Cable and satellite companies have tried to protect themselves from a large-scale subscriber revolt by bundling similar channels together.  Want premium movie channels?  You pay extra.  Want sports channels?  You pay extra.

More importantly, the family that doesn’t want extra movie or sports channels doesn’t have to pay any increased monthly fees.

But with so many channels now available, viewers are now growing tired of bundling, too.  A person might be willing to pay for the NFL Network and some extra regional sports networks, but that doesn’t mean he wants to be charged for the bull-riding or soccer channels.  Or vice versa.  A la carte programming is a desire shared by many.

On top of the “bundling versus a la carte” debate, many viewers are now choosing to get programming from a specific network by subscribing to that channel — or another provider — online.  More and more families are bringing content into their televisions via the internet with special TV hookups, video game consoles, or other devices/services.

Into all of that upheaval… enter the SEC Network.

Yesterday, Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News provided a broad overview of the current programming landscape and how the SEC Network might fit into it.  We linked you to it in our Sunday headlines, but in case you missed it, we wanted to push it again.  You should read it.

The more we as a society get used to instant answers to our questions — thanks, World Wide Web — the more we expect simple answers.  “When will I get the SEC Network?”  “How much will I pay for the network?”  “Can I just sign up for the network and nothing else?”

Unfortunately, as we’ve mentioned before, there are no simple answers on the SEC Network front.  Everything comes down to you where you live, your cable or satellite provider, and that provider’s willingness to cut a deal with ESPN/SEC.  Solomon’s column simply hammers home the point that how we view television is changing and that will impact the SEC’s new channel.

If you want simple, you’re outta luck.  The process by which providers add networks more often than not gets messy.  And the current television landscape — cable, satellite, bundling, a la carte, online, on-demand — is messier still.

Into all of that upheaval… enter the SEC Network.

The channel will make money and eventually you should be able to see it.  But you’d best be ready for a long, hard slog.  The Pac-12 Network, for example, launched last August and it’s still not on DirecTV.

How patient will SEC fans be?  Probably not very.  The thought of missing three football games every Saturday will likely lead some to pull their hair out, which is exactly what ESPN and the SEC are counting on.  The angrier you become, the more likely you’ll be to call your cable or satellite provider and demand the channel, thus upping the pressure on that provider to yield to ESPN and the SEC’s price demands (which will then be passed back to you).

What’s ironic is that before 2009 and the SEC’s twin contracts with ESPN and CBS, many SEC games weren’t on television.  After four years of nearly every SEC game getting national coverage, there’s now an expectation that any SEC game you want to see will be available.  Come next August, for some, that will no longer be the case.

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Techno-rific: How Blogs Are Changing The Sports World

Content provided by A Sea Of Blue.

In the final article of our series about the intersection of technology and sports, we will briefly examine in impact of weblogs (now known as “blogs”) on the sports world.

Many of you remember 1998, the title run by the Kentucky Wildcats that marked our third appearance in the National Finals in as many years, two of which resulted in the Wildcats being crowned national champions.  Many, if not most of us had Internet access back then, but in those days, sports content was limited mostly to the on-line presence of major publications.  There were a few sports-specific message boards and fan sites, but most of these bore little resemblance to the now-ubiquitous sports communities we see all over the Internet.

How different the fan experience was back then for the tech savvy!  You could not really share your feelings with the world, only the relative few inside your immediate circle of friends or family.  Sports information was something you had to purchase from stores, and the only real-time or near real-time sports delivery available was in the form of traditional broadcast media.  Local team coverage was spotty and relegated to a couple of call-in shows and five minutes during the broadcast sports report.  Reporting was a mile wide and an inch deep, with very few opportunities to examine statistical trends, hobnob with fellow dedicated fans, and even interact with the sportscasters who covered the teams themselves.

Enter the sports blog, which began to erupt on the scene in the early part of the decade.  They started off as mainly addenda to existing fan sites and message boards, but as interactive technology became more prevalent and less costly, the value of sports blogs began to be realized.  In-depth analysis, a check on traditional reporting which had too long been allowed to go unchallenged, and interactivity with passionate fan bases made sports blogs popular.  New interactive technologies such as AJAX and the wide availability of high-speed data made blogs more and more interactive.  Streaming video and audio round out the full multimedia experience, along with static photography and expert analysis.

As innovations such as Twitter and Facebook has been integrated into the back-ends of sports blogs, an amazing new trend has developed where you can get feedback on every major sports events from talented and experienced sports commentators as the story develops.  Now, as soon as somebody has an opinion and is able to darken a few pixels on the monitor, he or she can enlighten the world and create value to everyone who enjoys fandom.

Sports blogs not only deliver content themselves, but also direct users to other content and act as a meta-filter to help weed through the maze of the World Wide Web and focus on the most germane and intelligent content, helping users avoid the poorly-written, useless or mundane.  It also provides a forum for the users to interact not just with their fellow fans, but with the fans of other programs and even other nations on a scale would have been impossible only ten years ago.  Vast amounts of content and information can be condensed down into usable bits by skilled bloggers, and delivered for consumption by their readers.

Sports blogs are a relatively new phenomenon, but networks like SBNation, among others, are suddenly among the hotter properties on the Internet, and are growing by leaps and bounds.  Constant innovation is taking place to keep this budding industry growing and prospering, and as more and more people become “plugged in” to the experience, sports enjoyment is radically enhanced.  More fans are more in tune with their team than ever.

Think about then, and think about now.  What a difference a decade makes!

Which technology has most enhanced your Kentucky fan experience?

  40 votes | Results

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Some Bama Fans Want A New QB And OC. Some Bama Fans Are Twits.

Talk radio is bad.  The internet is worse.  (And yes, I realize I take part in both.)

I’m not a big fan of people being able to hide behind anonymity.  If a reporter uses unnamed sources — that’s one thing.  You’re banking on the reputation of the reporter and you are allowed to decide whether you trust the reporter’s judgement in choosing his sources… or not. 

But when any Tom, Dick or Harry can share their bizarro views (or “type in” as the case may be) with no accountability and no background information on the speaker, well, that’s dangerous.  A reporter who makes crazy statements can find himself out of work.  A radio kook who makes crazy statements can become a fixture on 10 shows a day.

Forty years ago, the village idiot could only influence people at the local barbershop or at a church social.  Now the village idiot can hit the airwaves or World Wide Web and connect with idiots living in a hundred other villages.  If there’s any thing worse than ignorance it’s pooled ignorance.

I write this because The Mobile Press-Register has posted some comments from angry Alabama fans today.  A couple of the quotes echo what many Bama talkshow hosts have heard all season long:

1.  Bench quarterback Greg McElroy for AJ McCarron!

2.  Fire offensive coordinator Jim McElwain!

This is now he we react in this country.

Lose a game?  Fire someone.  Bench someone.

Hear an unsubstantiated rumor about a Heisman candidate?  Don’t vote for him.

See a coach give a choke gesture?  Hang him.

And it’s not just sports.  It’s everything. 

Fail to fix the US economy in two years?  Go home.  (That’s not some pro-Democrat statement, either.  If the Republicans fail to bring quick answers, they’ll get a lightning fast boot, too.)

In this country, we like our solutions as fast as our cheeseburgers.  We overreact in laughably stupid ways when solutions can’t be microwaved up in a jiffy.

McCarron for McElroy?  Fire McElwain?

For the record, the Crimson Tide is now 21-2 with McElroy at quarterback.  He outdueled Tim Tebow in last year’s SEC title game and then he won the BCS title game with cracked ribs.

And Alabama is 33-4 with two SEC West titles, one SEC championship and one BCS crown with McElwain calling the plays.

Anyone suggesting the Tide should cut loose either the coach or the quarterback has a head softer than a ripe melon.

Why write this today?  Occasionally we all need a reminder of just how quick we are to overreact.  Call it the Twitter Effect. 

On this occasion, the fans of 11 other schools are laughing at Tide fans.  Tomorrow, Tide fans might be laughing at another school’s overreactive backers.

Either way, stepping back and looking at things with some perspective isn’t a sign of weakness.  It’s a sign of intelligence.

Bench McElroy?  Dump McElwain?  Now that’s just dumb.

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How Technology Makes Kentucky Sports Better: The Advent Of On Line Video

Content provided by A Sea Of Blue.

Back in 1990 when I started using the Internet, it was all about Usenet.  I got my start online back in the late 1980′s with BBS (Bulletin-Board Systems) which is kind of like a predecessor to email list servers.  You could download packets of topics and comments, add your own, then upload a packet and the conversation would be updated.  Using off-line readers was much easier at the very slow speeds than trying to research and type a complicated comment online, so I became a huge fan of BBS off-line message readers.

CompuServe was my first foray into on-line communities, and for those of you who remember what that was like, it was pretty cool for its time.  From there, we graduated to direct Internet Service Providers, and Gopher and WAIS.  Soon, the World Wide Web was created from the bones of Gopher and the web browser gradually became the rage.  Marc Andreesen, who worked on the first graphical browser known as Mosaic at the University of Illinois would go on to found Netscape in 1994, and introduce Netscape Navigator.  The explosion of Netscape’s popularity would give rise to what we now know as the World Wide Web.

Fast forward to 2010.  We now have much more than text and picture delivery over the Internet.  We have video, and very decent video at that, even if it still lags well behind the quality of what is available over cable and broadcast.  Miss that Wildcats game?  You can always go back and watch it on ESPN3, or other providers of games.  Even some schools provide game replays online for a nominal charge, or for free.

How has this changed the experience of Kentucky sports?  Amazingly, in my view.  I can go back now and often look at plays that I never realized were significant, and see where calls may have been missed, or properly made.  We can catch glimpses of high school players from far-away places or order past historic UK games on DVD.

As technology races ahead, we see the line between the Internet and video delivery blurring more and more every day.  We see people watching movies on their mobile phones, or even holding video calls where the callers can see each other.  In my day, that was the stuff of Dick Tracy – Star Trek communicators did not even include video.

Nowadays, we get to see our sports how and where we need to.  I know we have several members who watch most of UK’s games online, through one delivery method or another.  It has transformed what it means to be a sports fan, and put games within the reach of millions of people who were formerly forced to ask for a recording from a relative or friend able to get it.

What could possibly be next?

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